1. No Law Concerning Beggars or Begging in Israel:
It is significant that the Mosaic law contains no enactment concerning beggars, or begging, though it makes ample provision for the relief and care of "the poor in the land." Biblical Hebrew seems to have no term for professional begging, the nearest approach to it being the expressions "to ask (or seek) bread" and "to wander." This omission certainly is not accidental; it comports with the very nature of the Mosaic law, the spirit of which is breathed in this, among other kindred provisions, that a poor Hebrew who even sold himself for debt to his wealthy brother was allowed to serve him only until the Jubilee (See Jubilee), and his master was forbidden to treat him as a sl ave (
2. Begging Not Unknown to the Ancient Jews:
Begging, however, came to be known to the Jews in the course of time with the development of the larger cities, either as occurring among themselves, or among neighboring or intermingling peoples, as may be inferred from
3. Begging and Alms-taking Denounced in Jewish Literature:
4. Professional Beggars a Despised Class: As to professional beggars, originally, certainly, and for a long time, they were a despised class among the Hebrews; and the Jewish communities are forbidden to support them from the general charity fund (BB, 9a; Yoreh De`ah, 250, 3). But the spirit of the law is evinced again in that it is likewise forbidden to drive a beggar away without an alms (ha-Yadh ha- Chazaqah, in the place cited 7 7).
5. In the Gospel Age:
Begging was well known and beggars formed a considerable class in the gospel age. Proof of this is found in the references to almsgiving in the
The words used for "beg," "beggar" of English Versions of the Bible in the New Testament differ radically in idea: in those formed from aiteo (
6. A Change in Modern Times:
A marked change has come over Jewish life in modern times, in this as well as in other respect. Since the 17th century the Jewish poor in many parts of the world have made it a practice, especially on Fridays and on the eves of certain festivals, to go systematically from house to house asking alms. In parts of Europe today it is a full-grown abuse: crowds of Jewish beggars push their way and ply their trade about the synagogue doors (Abrahams, EB, article "Alms," 310). So the Jewish beggar, in spite of the spirit of the law and ancient Jewish custom, has, under modern conditions too well known to require explanation here, become a troublesome figure and problem in modern Jewish society. For such beggars and begging, see Jew Encyclopedia, articles "Schnorrers," "Alms," etc., and for another kind of begging among modern Jews, and collections for poverty-stricken Jewish settlers in Palestine, see the articles "Chalukah," "Charity," etc.
Saalschiutz, Arch. der Hebraer, II, chapter xviii (Konigsberg, 1855-56); Riehm Handworterbuch zu den Buchern des A T, under the word "Almosen "; compare Jew Encyclopedia, HDB, and Encyclopedia B, arts, "Alms"; and Abrahams, Jewish Life in the, chapters xvii, xviii (Philadelphia, 1896); Mackie, Bible Manners and Customs; Day, The Social Life of the Hebrews.
George B. Eager